faire revenir

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New Member
UK English
In cooking recipes the phrase "faire revenir" is often used. What does this mean in the cooking context ?
  • Chabada

    Senior Member
    France (French)
    It means: to brown. Example (source: Robert & Collins) = to brown the onions gently in the butter.


    Senior Member
    Wow...that's quite odd.

    "Faire revenir" = "to do to return" in imperfect terms, or "do to return" in imperative terms.

    How does that, in any way, relate to browning?


    Senior Member
    Français, Canada
    B. Usuel. Faire revenir de la viande, du poisson, des légumes, des oignons. (Laisser) se colorer plus ou moins fortement, avant la cuisson proprement dite, une volaille, un poisson, un légume dans un corps gras fortement chauffé (d'apr. COURTINE, Gastr. 1984)


    Senior Member
    Evidemment, on a du mal à comprendre en quoi ces oignons ou ce poisson "reviennent" - et d'où... Ils commençaient à tourner de l'oeil, peut-être ?

    I'd translate "to brown gently" - things shouldn't become really brown.


    france, french

    Sans doute parce que ce que l'on cuit, revient de l'état frais à cuit ou bien de l'état "blanc" ou "vert" à "doré" et qu'ainsi les aliments peuvent se dire "je n'en reviens pas" (jeu de mot).

    An explanation could be that foods being cooked to brown come back from "white" or "green" color state to "brown" color state, their normal cooked color(?). It could means that these foods come back from dead color (white) to a color of living (brown).


    Senior Member
    Canada (English)

    My husband and I read a magazine that is only available in French, but is for a cooking show that we watch regularly on TV. I can understand French very well, but him not so much. I regularly find myself translating the recipes an typing them out to keep in a binder for quick reference. There's one phrase I can never seem to find an accurate translation for: faire revenir.

    Dans une casserole, faire revenir le riz dans l'huile.
    Dans une poêle qui va au four, faire revenir l'oignon dans le beurre.

    I get the gist of what it means, but how would one translate it into English?


    Senior Member
    American English, Yiddish
    Maybe so, but "sear", or "sere", in the sense of dry and withered is said to derive from Indo-European via Old Teutonic and Old English. As "to burn or char with a hot iron", "to cauterize" the OUD gives an example from 1530.


    English, German
    When you are talking about vegetables, such as onions or leeks, "faire revenir" can be translated as to sweat. To sweat a vegetable means to cook it over low or medium heat until it becomes soft and translucent (i.e. softened but not browned.)


    Senior Member
    UK English
    Once again I find myself returning to a thread, still searching for a solution…

    I first heard "faire revenir" used by a French friend who was making us what I would call garlic beans. These were haricot beans and she steamed them for a bit, then fried them gently with chopped garlic, this frying part being the "faire revenir" bit. I suppose I have in a way answered my own question about how to say this in English, having just said "fry gently", but I'm not sure that really is the concept of "faire revenir", because, as a non-native speaker of French, I get stuck on the literal meaning of the words, like Somody above.

    I would be wary of using "to brown", as making the beans brown didn't seem to be the point. My friend's beans were green, garlicky, very slightly buttery as I remember and absolutely delicious.


    Senior Member
    For the beans, your suggestions (gently fry and, earlier, sweat) are fine.
    For me, there's one or two things about the concept of "faire revenir" in normal use, both of which are in the definition given by Gil in post #4.
    • It doesn't describe how the dish is cooked. The finished dish itself could be steamed, baked, stewed or even fried. It is a technical step in the recipe, like cleaning, blanching or seasoning.
    • It's usually about colour: adding/giving colour to an ingredient.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    It's usually about colour: adding/giving colour to an ingredient.
    Yes, and this is what bothers me, because "sweating" onions is definitely not about giving them colour. It's about making them soft and transparent and releasing their flavour. I am looking for a translation of "sweating" rather than the other way round.

    If "faire revenir" is about browning, I can't use it for "sweating" and it shouldn't really apply to my friend's garlic beans either, but that's the term she used.

    So I remain confused. Can "faire revenir" be used for "sweating" and "gently frying"? I'd like to know the answer from someone whose first language for cooking is French.

    Elsewhere on WR I have just discovered "faire fondre" - maybe this is more the thing for the initial sweating of onions?


    Senior Member
    UK English
    I've come across this thread and realise it's old but in reply to Wodwo, 'faire fondre' in relation to cooking onions, for example, implies cooking them for a lot longer than simply 'sweating'. I'd say that for the latter, you're looking at about 10 minutes cooking, whereas the former would take at least 20 minutes. When I'm translating recipes, I try to make the instructions as clear as possible rather than getting hung up on literally translating the French words, so probably would say something like, 'cook the onions over a low heat for until very soft (about 20 minutes)' rather than 'melt' them. Obviously, context is all…
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